Wednesday, 31 July 2013


Tom Baker
The very first story with a new Doctor I presume is cause for celebration, and Tom Baker is revealed in ‘Robot’ – a somewhat stock-standard story with the old ‘mad scientist’ premise built on the King Kong legend. Terrance Dicks put his pen to this one, perhaps the first story he has written outright in the many years he’d been involved in the show (since Patrick Troughton’s time).
When you look at the story it is full of wacky ideas, nutjobs and not-particularly convincing robot. It’s far from the best Doctor Who story, it’s not particularly special and perhaps somewhat predictable. But what do you want from a story with the main goal to introduce your new leading man? It succeeds in showing Tom Baker in several lights and pique your interest in this new Doctor, with a keen eye to see what he will do.
Jon Pertwee was stoic and reliable, but Tom Baker immediately presents as unpredictable. He has a charm melded with a comic turn but an ability to be serious when required and even angry. He presents us with a full gamut of emotions in his first story. He throws himself into the role with great gusto!
Winters shows the robot to Sarah
A new addition to the cast – Ian Marter as Harry Sullivan. An excellent character, fantastically played. Almost seemed to be there to be the straight man to the Doctor! There is a great sequence where Tom and Ian are skipping and it gets faster and faster. It must have taken a lot of practice to get right! Sarah Jane Smith is also well written, and the robot, played by resident big man Michael Kilgarriff, becomes attached to Sarah much as King Kong did to.... well I don’t know the lady’s name, but it’s a great instance of borrowing from a classic.
The centre of it all is Think-Tank, a government-funded scientific research core who seem to have gone a bit off the rails thanks to Miss Winters and Mr Jellicoe who are in charge. The plan to gain control of the Earth’s nuclear weapons to take
control though is just a little simple in my mind, although generally I found ‘Robot’ a fun story. Nice twist for the Brigadier’s character when he thinks he has everything sewn up by firing the ‘disintegrator gun’ at the robot, only to make it ten times the size it originally was!
I did enjoy Sarah Jane’s attempts to interview the people at the SRS – Scientific Reform society. People dressed as Nazis believing they are in the best position to tell people how to live their lives, when in fact they were just a bunch of nerds. Was this the show’s first parody of its fans?
Last but not least I want to mention the rather wonderful performance of Edward Burnham as Professor Kettlewell. He played a similar character in ‘The Invasion’, but took ‘crazy old scientist’ to a new level in ‘Robot’, especially teasing out all his hair at right angles. Wonderful stuff. Fun story.


Monday, 29 July 2013

Planet of the Spiders

Jon Pertwee’s swansong is a strange six part tale involving the good, bad and questionable aspects that have become the trademarks of his era. Originally planned as the final story with the Master, Roger Delgado had sadly died and this was then a completely new story written by Barry Letts and Robert Sloman.
'The Great One'
It’s not their best work, nor their work. Jon Pertwee is again a tower of strength as the Doctor, Elizabeth Sladen wonderful as Sarah. Great performances throughout from John Dearth as Lupton and John Kane wonderfully playing Tommy, the man who starts off simple but his learning disability disappears thanks to the Doctor’s Metabelis crystal.
It ties in and up a lot of stuff, finally we get some time on Metebelis Three, a planet the third Doctor often talked about (and went, briefly, in episode one of ‘The Green Death’.) Roger Delgado’s widow, Kismet Delgado, gets to voice the ‘Great One’, the all powerful spider. Cyril Shaps is back for another story, this time he dies in the first episode! And there are a host of players from the Pertwee era with guest parts and Jo gets a mention too.
The Brig and Benton take Bessie on the chase!
There’s a chase sequence, a very pointless and long one, in episode two. But it’s all a bit of fun as the Doctor and Lupton go from craft to craft. It takes half the episode only to end with Lupton being transported away. Some dodgy CSO when the Whomobile flies, and then for the village on Metebelis Three – one trait common with the Pertwee era which was less successful.
We have the three main UNIT regulars, the Brigadier, Benton and Richard Franklin in his final story as Mike Yates, redeeming himself for past foibles in ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ which is nice. Generally the acting is fantastic, however, the exception is the villagers, and I hate to single someone out for bad acting, so I will single out both the mother and daughter of the villagers – Neska and Rega (I won’t write the actors names down) as possibly the two worst performances in Doctor Who history. The mother over acts terribly, the daughter underacts. Maybe it’s courtesy of bad dialogue, but they are genuine shockers!
The spiders are, on the whole, realised pretty well and are pretty creepy. They’re a little bit megalomaniac standard for me, and the sets in the spiders city are poor. Mostly light blue or cream corridors and the spider council sits on plastic benches. I understand they needed to be raised to facilitate dialogue with the human characters, but it’s not just the lighting that’s bad here. The whole thing should have been very dark and cobwebs, probably didn't need to build anything. Cobwebs in front of a black backdrop would have worked much better.
George Cormack as Kanpo.
The at the end we have some wonderful moments. The process of regeneration explained far more than previously. Great lines and moments, the idea to have Kanpo regenerate first was a great piece of writing to clue the audience in to what was going to happen to the Doctor. Kanpo is played by Geroge Cormack, who played Dalios in 'The Time Monster', and couldn't have been more suited to the role. Also, he is now the Monk which the Doctor talked about with Jo in 'The Time Monster'. 
Wonderfully played final episode by Jon Pertwee, showing fear brilliantly when faced with the great one. The use of Tommy is also very good. So much to love mixed in with a bit of the dubious too. Farewell Jon Pertwee, another great Doctor. An actor worthy and perfect for the role. That’s 3/3 so far!


Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Monster of Peladon

I was a bit wary coming into this story. The season has felt a bit different at times, and at others (such as ‘Death to the Daleks’) it felt like it was just going through the motions, so when I was faced with a story featuring the return to Peladon, the return of Alpha Centauri and the like, and I knew it was going to be six parts, I was a little sceptical. Then my friend Andrew, watching all the stories with me, but unlike me not for the first time, said it was a pretty slow and difficult story to get through. I was not looking forward to ‘The Monster of Peladon’.
Donald Gee and Elizabeth Sladen with Alpha Centauri and an Ice Warrior.
But hey, it was ok! I watched it in two installments of around three episodes each, and although it never reaches great heights it moved ok with an interesting-enough story and some decent characters. I was disappointed that the Ice Warriors again had been cast as villains, and I thought Aggedor could have had a bit more to do, but a solid six parts with interesting ideas and wonderful performances from Elizabeth Sladen and Jon Pertwee. Some of the acting by Liz Sladen when she thinks the Doctor dead was really moving. I was very impressed. And it’s a classic case of the Doctor putting himself before everyone else to stop the Ice Warriors’ scheme.
Nina Thomas
A good guest cast as well. Nina Thomas is perhaps cuter than you’d expect from a Queen, but she does a great job as Thalira, and there’s some really good stuff between her and Sarah. Then there is Rex Robinson in for his second Doctor Who adventure in two years – he played Doctor Tyler in ‘The Three Doctors’. He plays the leader of the miners here, Gebek, and despite the fact that all the miners have ridiculous hair, does a good job.
Jon Pertwee gives his service to the Queen.
Also returning to Doctor Who is Donaled Gee, as the co-conspirator, Eckersly. It’s a good character, one the audience doesn’t suspect really until the truth is revealed. Not an earth-shattering performance, but a good job. Frank Gatliff is Chancellor Ortron. This is a good character too. Unlike Hepesh (in ‘The Curse of Peladon’) Ortron is true to his Queen. However, there is a class warfare going on on Peladon, the Royalty versus the miners. Again, Brian Hayles’ script has political connotations, more so than the previous story.

Sadly, although it is Aggedor who gets Eckersly in the end, the poor beast pays the price and is killed. Although it’s not the most convincing monster in the world, it’s still a sad end to the tale. 

Jon Pertwee shows Liz Sladen a statue of Aggador.
It’s slow in places, and the hair is just bizarre for the miners, some of the dialogue is purely functional and it seems to tread over old ground with the Ice Warriors, but still I enjoyed this story enough to be surprised.


Saturday, 27 July 2013

Death to the Daleks

Sarah about to be sacrificed.
It’s apparently common knowledge that Jon Pertwee didn’t like the Daleks, and in each Dalek story he did he seems slightly less interested in what’s going on and that could be why. ‘Death to the Daleks’ is a story full of interesting ideas, great twists, things that worked and things that didn't, Terry Nation writing stock characters whose motives get summed up in a quick line and more.
It’s both interesting and dull at the same time. The Daleks on a planet where their guns don’t work – love it. The idea of a living city that sucks energy from everything on the planet – love it. The Exxilons, when not shot in light, look very very creepy. On the other hand there’s a lot of phaffing
That was close! An arrow nearly nails the Doctor.
around and time spent in corridors and passageways. There’s a ‘tube-monster’ straight from the Krotons. There’s some very creepy chanting, balanced out by the awful soundtrack which doesn't build suspense and has the same theme repeated over and over again. and again.
Terry Nation starts as he did the previous story he wrote (Planet) – with the TARDIS having issues. The door has to be opened by a crank, and the Doctor and Sarah use a gas lamp to see the way. The Doctor explores the surroundings whilst Sarah changes and also exits the TARDIS.
Duncan Lamont as Galloway
John Alberni is acting leader of a group from Earth who are after a mineral to save lives on Earth, again paralleling the Thal group chasing the Daleks in ‘Planet’, but then he dies, the Captain reappears and declares that Galloway, played by Duncan Lamont, is not fit to lead, but dies so Galloway assumes control. He has a journey though, and ends up blowing all the Daleks up aboard their ship.
The Doctor and Bellal.
Sarah disappears and reappears from the story here and there. Again she gets a chance to show her stuff as she fools the Daleks into taking bags of sand onto their ship. I pay kudos to Elizabeth Sladen because she took charge shaping her character. Nation didn’t know how to write Jo Grant it seemed, but Liz Sladen made his lines work for Sarah. Who knows if she altered them in rehearsal or what, but Sarah functions well in ‘Death to the Daleks’.
The Daleks try to cross the deadly floor!
We have the friendly Exxilon ‘Bellal’ played by Arnold Yarrow, who Nick Briggs though would have made an interesting companion. Give me a break!!! Thank goodness that didn’t happen! He joins the Doctor as the Doctor walks through the city in order to shut down the power source so the TARDIS and the Earth ship can take off. They are put through several uninspiring tests like ‘pick the odd symbol out’ and ‘get out of the maze’, written on walls. Then cross a strange red-pattern on the floor, which is one of the worst all-time episode endings ever. The Doctor and Bellal walk down a corridor, the Doctor says ‘stop, look out!’ and the camera shows the red chessboard-like pattern on the floor. End episode.

When the Doctor gets to the source of the power, he confuses it so he can escape. So they are back where they started. Nothing gained or lost. It’s the bomb the Daleks put on the beacon at the top which stops the power. So it’s a pointless waste of a third of the story walking through boring corridors.
I found it all rather dull to be honest. The use of a model blown up as the Dalek saucer doesn’t really work either. The planet is another quarry, could be
Anti-bodies created by the city attack the Daleks.
another part of Spiradon. The acting is good, but at times I don’t buy Jon Pertwee, he seems very disinterested in the story and I don’t blame him! On a positive note – it’s only four parts!


Thursday, 25 July 2013

Invasion of the Dinosaurs

Director Paddy Russel’s first Doctor Who story was ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’, a strange story that I really enjoyed except for, well, any Doctor Who fan will know what’s wrong with this story. If you’re going to call a story ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’, then simply your first priority once the script is written is to have decent looking dinosaurs. And this story scores a massive fail in that area.
The Drashings were quite dinosaur-like in ‘Carnival of Monsters’, so it’s disappointing that something of the same quality couldn't be done for this story. The dinosaurs don’t work on any level sadly, and there are three key reasons why. 
Jon Pertwee CSOed onto a model. Not the best. The Stegosaurus isn't great, but the backdrop is dreadful.
1/ They lack detail, movable limbs and don’t look realistic at all. In fact, they look like something out of a carton of cereal. They appear to be held by their tails. It’s shocking.
2/ The backdrops they are put in front of don’t match the filming. They look like models sadly and it was a very strange decision to do it this way. As the dinosaurs only, for the most part, appear outside, the corresponding shots are all on film. So the Doctor looks up to see a T-Rex, cut to a T-Rex in front of a set that looks like it’s from ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’. They should have, in this case, shot the angles they needed on film and CSOed the monsters in. Instead the Doctor gets CSOed onto unrealistic backgrounds, shot on video, facing giant plastic toys. Fail on every level.
3. They linger sooooooo long on the dinosaurs. The key to building suspense is limit the time you see the monster. Give glimpses. But the shots just go on and on and on. The longer you look at the dinosaurs, the more you see their faults.
A T-Rex in chains.

Perhaps a different director would have come up with a different way to do the shots. But sadly it’s embarrassing for Paddy Russel. Michael Ferguson would have been perfect for this story – he is the most inventive and clever director of this era in my opinion, and that’s the sort of thinking ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ needed to work.
But enough of the criticism, because actually I like this story save the dinosaurs, which I understand is a fairly common stance amongst Doctor Who fans. The plot, although quite non-sensical when examined closely, is very interesting. I rather like most of the sets even if many of the corridors wobble a bit too much. It’s well cast, seeing the return of Peter Miles as Whitaker, played almost exactly as he played his character in ‘The Silurians’. But mad-Professor – he’s your man! Martin Jarvis as his sidekick was perhaps under-utilised. We have Mike Yates back and Richard Franklin gets to explore the more gullible side of his nature as he changes sides, believing this Earth is in trouble.
Whitaker (left) Sarah, Finch and Grover.
Whitaker plans to turn the Earth back to the Jurassic era, keeping London intact. Really though – isn’t he just taking London back in time? Why would you bother reversing time for all the Earth when you already had equipment that pulls dinosaurs out of time and brings them to the future – ie. he has already achieved time travel!
But don’t look too hard, and you won’t notice the absurdity of the script. We have a group of people who believe they are on a space ship heading to ‘New Earth’, but in fact are still stuck in central London whilst they turn time back. It’s interesting that Hulke has written them all as quite dim, but believing that the world has become ultra-polluted and society has degenerated. He writes them as fools, in stark contrast to characters in ‘The Green Death’. That’s what is really interesting about ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ – what happens when environmentalists go too far? Hulke and Letts, it must be said, were on different sides of the fence politically.
Sarah aboard the fake space ship.
The acting is very solid, this aspect Paddy Russel excels at when it comes to directing. It moves pretty well. There’s a strange instance when the Doctor has been framed, and then he escapes, and he starts running away to the middle of nowhere for some reason though, and that seems to simply be filler as there’s a long chase sequence. Benton has a wonderful moment when he punches General Finch, played by John Bennet. As they fight he is told he will be court-martialled and he says ‘yes sir, very good sir’ as the fight goes on. He then smiles about it in the final scene, and is wonderfully reminded by the Brigadier he’d better not make a habit of it. As for Mike Yates, it seems the end of the line for him...
Classic moment - Benton grapples with Finch!
I still like this story despite a seemingly very critical review. The plot’s bonkers and the dinosaurs are embarrassingly woeful, but still I like this one. It’s a pity the colour-recovery didn’t work out for episode one, the results are ok at points but pretty bad at others. It’s possibly the best episode of the six too, very foreboding. I love the idea of the Doctor and Sarah returning to London to find no-one around, martial-law enforced and wondering what’s happened. It’s very eerie, and we only see a dinosaur at the very end. Oh, hate to end on a negative note but three episodes end with the Doctor being faced with a (dodgy obviously) T-Rex. Oh, if only....


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Time Warrior

Greeted by new credits
The season-opener for Season 11 is really a wonderful piece of writing, with some fantastic performances from the guest cast. It’s a fun romp, with a wonderful humorous  edge. Whilst Robert Holmes introduces the Sontarans, a potato-headed warrior race, the real stars of the show are the characters he wrote so beautifully in Irongron and Bloodaxe, portrayed by David Daker and John J. Carney. As a pair they are simply very funny, and work brilliantly off each other. There is something very funny about seeing two stupid people in positions of power.

Irongron (left) with Bloodaxe.
For Example: Bloodaxe (to Irongron): Indeed yours is a towering intelligence.

Then we have Professor Rubeish, played by Donald Pelmear.  A doddering old scientist blind without his glasses who potters along for the whole story like he’s invisible to Linx, the Sontaran, played by Kevin Lindsay, holding up a piece of glass he fashioned into a spectacle. Linx looks great, the mask is well proportioned to the actor’s face, and they cast exactly the right man for the job in my opinion. We only see his face sparingly too, the director has avoided revealing too much of his chief-villain.
Kevin Lidsay as the lovely Linx.
However, the end of episode one is extremely contrived. The Doctor is hiding in the castle behind a wagon or something, and Linx strolls out, and takes his helmet off so we can see his ugly features. There’s no good reason for him to do so unless he was desperate for air I guess.
Elizabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith.
Now, we have a new character as well, a new ‘companion’ for the Doctor when she sneaks aboard the TARDIS as the Doctor sets course for medieval England, Sarah Jane Smith. Quite a departure from Jo Grant, Sarah is very aggressive and in fact thinks the Doctor is responsible for the missing scientists for a time. Played by the late Elizabeth Sladen, Sarah is very good in this story, making a strong debut, organising attacks on Irongron’s castle, kidnapping the Doctor and the like.

Eventually she realises the Doctor is on the side of good of course, and helps him out. She helps the rather helpless Edward of Wessex (Alan Rowe), who is attacked by Irongron and fears for his castle and lands.

personal favourite: Bloodaxe
What is strange is that Irongron and his band of men with questionable intelligence don’t seem to be very good at hunting, instead preferring to capture castles, stay there until all the food and drink has been consumed and move to the next castle. Not really sure what the ultimate aim is.
Linx and Irongron plot together.
It’s a nice, compact four-part story. The DVD release includes some new CGI effects, which is a good thing because to be frank the effects in the original telecast version are all a bit rubbish, especially the exploding castle at the end. Robert Holmes was apparently reluctant to write a story in an historical setting, however ‘The Time Warrior’ proves that mixed with science fiction elements, an historical setting is a great place to set a Doctor Who story.


Monday, 22 July 2013

The Green Death

Jo and Professor Jones.
We say a fond farewell to Katy Manning and Jo Grant in this story. We return to a far more familiar style of tale for the Pertwee era in an Earth-based story that could have been penned by Malcolm Hulke for its political message, but was in fact written by Barry Letts and Robert Sloman. It has a strong environmental message, before the green movement had really started to make waves. In fact we see the environmentalists shown as basically a bunch of fringe-dwellers led by the charismatic Professor Cliff Jones (Stewart Bevan).
Stevens and the 'BOSS'.
The plot is an interesting mix of styles I feel. It’s quite different in many ways from the previous two season-finales in ‘The Daemons’ and ‘The Time Monster’. There’s a blend of comedy in this one and I think it’s just about Jon Pertwee’s best performance as the Doctor. It’s little wonder – he gets to pretend to be a milkman and the cleaning lady in a wonderful comic-turn which had previously been denied the actor, who entered Doctor Who with a career primarily as a comedian.
The main protagonist is the ‘BOSS’, a megalomaniac computer voiced by John Dearth. It’s a lovely performance from a man who didn’t actually get to appear on screen, full of colour and clear enjoyment. His chief puppet is ‘Stevens’, the chief of Global Chemicals, played by Jerome Willis. There’s just one thing – where has this computer come from? Who built it? In some ways it’s a copy of WOTAN from the first Doctor Who story ‘The War Machines’, albeit done much better. The BOSS plans to take over the world when the other main computers are all linked to him. However, again, it is never explained where the computer came from and why it became so crazy and power mad.
Yates and Stevens.
The direction is solid, especially for the actors’ performances. I wonder though if they ran out of time on the location shoot, because there are a number of shots that should have been shot outdoors that have instead been done on CSO. It doesn’t work at all well unfortunately, and that’s disappointing because much of the story is really good and really well done. The glowing green marks on people infected by the ooze or maggots for instance. The maggots themselves are pretty well done in most cases. But, like ‘Carnival of Monsters’, CSO is relied on just a little too much. Also some of the model shots of the maggots on the hill don’t match the exterior shooting at all. At the end of the day, they had time and money constraints, but it holds back the story from being as good as it could have been.
Jon Pertwee the cleaning lady!
The characters are great, and the Brigadier, Benton and Yates all have good parts. Poor Richard Franklin, doesn't appear until episode three or four, and this was his only story in season 10! But he gets to look funky in a suit and wear his hair unlike a military type. Katy Manning gets a great send off, perhaps this is the one time I can believe in the ‘falling in love and getting married’ reason for leaving the show. With Letts and Sloman, Katy had a writing duo who know her character very very well, so the issues of ‘Planet of the Daleks’ do not resurface here. It does however make the whole situation with Jo and Latep in the previous story seem even more out of place.
Set in a wonderful little Welsh mining town, the characters and lilting accents colour the story very well, with some wonderful performances from the supporting cast. The Nut-Hutch, the home of Professor Jones and the whole-wheat community is also well done. Very sad to see Jo go, it’s definitely the end of an era. The final scene where the Doctor drives off, teary-eyed, is one of the most touching moments in the show’s history to this point, and I suspect, to this day it remains so.


Planet of the Daleks

‘Planet of the Daleks’ not only sees the return of the Daleks, but Terry Nation, their creator, as the writer. The story continues on from the end of ‘Frontier in Space’, which ended on a cliff hanger, but strangely seems to ignored most of what’s gone on before. In the final episode of ‘Frontier in Space’ the Doctor and Jo learn that the Daleks are massing a huge army somewhere to invade the galaxy, and the Doctor sends a message to the Time Lords because he wants to get after them.
Crikey! It's a Dalek. Didn't expect that when I followed them!

So why does episode one end with a cliff hanger of the reveal of a Dalek like it’s a massive surprise. Don’t forget also that the title is a bit of a give-away too! Episode one is full of Nation-isms, actually the whole story is. Invisible creatures, jungles, a first episode of discovering the environment, a plague and more. The Doctor needs to recover from a shot grazing his forehead and Jo puts him down to rest and goes to get help. She finds a Dictaphone of some description and starts narrating what’s happening. The machine itself proves vital in a later episode but it has to be said it’s a strange thing for her to do.
Latep and Jo.
Her character is very poorly written for these six parts which is a bit sad as it’s her penultimate story. Many of the lines don’t feel like ‘Jo Grant’, and there is this sort of mini-romance between Jo and the Thal Latep (Alan Tucker)which springs from nowhere and isn’t followed through on.  It reminds me of Barbara and a Thal in the first Dalek story, but less convincing.
In fact much of the dialogue from the Doctor too seems a bit non-third Doctor. I can only presume that Nation hadn’t been watching the series as it was at the time and wrote characters very generically, and Terrence Dicks didn’t script edit the thing very hard.
Dalek army in cold storage.
Apart from the writing, which is pedestrian at best, the look of the story is pretty good. The jungle is done, for the most part, well apart from the white backdrop coloured with changing light which is not convincing. The use of the outdoor stuff for the ice pools was a good location which didn’t mix in well with the jungle and rocks of the studio stuff.
The Doctor sneaks around a Dalek.
Yes Katy, I know.
The use of moving ice was really well done, the sets of the Dalek base were not – the appeared to be made out of paper-mache. The Daleks had been dusted off too many times without paint jobs and are visibly peeling through the story. The Thals are nicely written and portrayed for the most part. Nation loves to give us characters who fall in love, have conflicts and the like, and we have both here. They get a bit Alpha-male when the leader Taron played by Bernard Horsfall starts a fist fight with Vaber played by Prentis Hancock. This character is a typical protagonist within a group, and like everything in this story is mostly functional. However, the actors bring the largely two-dimensional characters together pretty well. But it’s a hard story to feel very enthused about. The colour restoration work on episode 3 is fantastic and the pacing isn’t too bad. There’s the Spiradons, invisible locals of the planet mostly enslaved by the Daleks. It’s amusing the see the use of CSO to move objects to make real these creatures, if not entirely successful. The jungle was very well designed with plants that sprayed a thick mucus like fungus and other nasties.

Still, very hard to get excited by this one.


Saturday, 20 July 2013

Frontier in Space

Publicity shot with the three stars.
So they decided to do a space opera, and Who fans got ‘Frontier in Space’. Malcolm Hulke put his pen to paper for this one, unmistakably his in tone and politics. However, it’s not one of his best efforts. It’s dull and slow for the most part, although the final two episodes have a lot of pace and then we have a nonsensical ending which is incredibly rushed.
They try to do an awful lot in this one, and almost succeed each time without actually succeeding. We start on a cargo ship, then Earth, then a prison on the moon, then on the Master’s prison ship, then on the planet Draconia, and finally the planet of the Ogrons which doesn’t even get a name. That’s six major locations in 6 episodes, plus a couple of other ships, two space walks, the list goes on.
Yet with all this diversity, the story is for the most part very dull. The Doctor and Jo keep getting put in a cell, interrogated, escaping and repeat. The Doctor is sent to the moon, but that’s a prison, they are prisoners of the Master, they must be prisoners for half the story. Nobody believes them at all, it’s ring-a-ring-a-rosies and it becomes old very quickly. Then suddenly everyone changes their minds at the end of episode five and helps the Doctor.
A Draconian
The Doctor twice goes outside a space ship. Once to fix a shot motor or something, the other to sneak up of the Master. The first is just ridiculous. The Master turns the ship as a course correction whilst the Doctor is outside. The Doctor barely moves considering, and then uses his oxygen via a tube to propel him back to the ship. I don’t know if the ship’s gravity would keep the Doctor nearby, or if he wouldn't suddenly be 100 miles from the ship, but I’m pretty sure a stream of oxygen from a tank wouldn't move you far in space at all. If at all!
Roger Delgado and Katy Manning in the prison ship.
We are left with no real resolution. We can presume that General Williams escaped and so did the son of the Draconian Emperor, and averted a war, but the last we saw they could easily be re-captured by the Ogrons. The Master’s fate is even less clear. There are gun shots fired, one of which hits the Doctor, as he turns on the Master’s fear device to escape sending the Ogrons into mad panic. Sadly this is the last we will see of Roger Delgado, not long after the episode was aired he was killed in Turkey in a car crash. He was a wonderful Master, pity that this story had him working for the Daleks.
So really we don’t know if the space war between Earth and Draconia was stopped or not. The Draconians themselves were wonderful creatures, well conceived and well portrayed by the actors under the masks. Not perfect on close up, where you could see joins and the like, but the actual design was very attractive.
Unlike the design of much of the story. It’s all so grey. Okay, a fair approximation of what the author thought might be Earth’s future, but grey concrete everywhere on Earth, grey interiors for all the ships, the planet of the Orgrons was a boring grey quarry, the only thing which wasn’t 100% grey was the moon prison! When I think of ‘Frontier in Space’, I think of the colour grey.
Vera Furek relaxes as the President.
The cast was mixed. Delgado never gave a bad (or indeed understated) performance as the Master, but I found General Williams, played by Michael Hawkins, to be quite unbelievable in the role. Dare I say it, it needed a big tough American in the role? The President of Earth was a woman – a good move because there were hardly any female parts in this one apart from Jo, and Vera Fusek was ok but seemed to stumble over lines here and there. John Woodnutt, though, was wonderfully lyrical with his performance as the Draconian Emperor. His dulcet tones and long rolled ‘r’s were wonderful.
At the end the Daleks arrive and disappear very quickly, and I feel the story needed to be shortened in the first half and lengthened in the second. The Doctor is shot and Jo helps him into the TARDIS where he calls the Time Lords for help – the Daleks are massing an army and he has to stop them.
Oh, but that’s another story...


Friday, 19 July 2013

Carnival of Monsters

Terence Lodge as Orum almost steals the show.
Given his freedom, the third Doctor and Jo set off in the TARDIS in search of Metebelis Three, the magical blue planet. However, instead of getting there, they end up inside a ‘mini-scope’, a machine that houses creatures from across the Universe in miniature, with a screen to show what’s going on. It’s kind of like a portable zoo I guess. ‘Carnival of Monsters’ is quite a different story, full of comedy and some of the scariest monsters in Doctor Who history – the Drashings. These beasts are so well done (in most instances) that you wonder why other monsters are so disappointing. For instance, the  dinosaur in ‘The Silurians’. Or, simply, the Silurians themselves.
A Drashing.
The key are the brilliant models, combined with the fact that the creatures are generally ‘wet’. This adds a lot in terms of realism. They are used very effectively in the swamp-land setting, not quite as well in the city where the CSO is far more apparent.
In other areas, the production budget is stretched that little bit too far again. We have some great stuff set on a boat, and the sets for that are great as is the fact they were able to shoot on a real boat. There is good and bad use of CSO throughout the story. The good – episode four there is a wonderfully lined up shot through the gash in the ship into the inner workings of the scope with the Doctor calling to Jo. The bad – well it’s over used in the alien city. The budget and space ran out after sets for the ship and the inside of the scope it seems, as we only see two areas in the whole city. We learn next to nothing about the planet which is disappointing. The novelisation is very good and fills in a few gaps explaining the way the society functions, but as far as the viewers are concerned the planet might be a room, a corridor and a loading bay.
Kalik, Pletrac and Orum. Great acting, bad make up.
As good as the Drashings were, the look of the aliens was bad. The functionaries’ masks look very cheaply thrown together, clearly a lot of space between the face of the actor and the mask. Pletrac, Orum and Kalik had very poor make up jobs, maybe their eyes were sensitive but there is a white line around all the eyes. The hair and eyebrows appear to be any old fluff chucked on for good measure too!
What is not poor in ‘Carnival of Monsters’ is the amazing cast and their brilliant performances. Michael Wisher as the evil Kalik, Peter Halliday as Pletrac and Terence Lodge as Orum steal the show with their bickering and their banter. The
Vorg and Shirna
Lermans, Vorg and Shirna, are wonderfully portrayed by Leslie Dwyer and Cheryl Hall, and on the ship stuck in the scope Ian Marter is perfect casting as John Andrews. Tenniel Evans as Major Daly and Jenny McCracken as Claire Daly pretty much complete an excellent cast who keep it all together brilliantly.
It’s a very different tone from previous tales, especially for the writer Robert Holmes who hadn’t put much comedy into his past stories. There are weird and strange costumes for the Lermans, and wonderfully interplay between the chief three aliens. Barry Letts directed as well as produced this one, and I think he got great performances out of his entire cast, but relied too heavily on CSO. Katy Manning deserves special credit, Jo is a thoroughly likeable companion who becomes more resourceful by each episode. Jon Pertwee, as always, is very strong with some nice moments.
Over all it’s a pretty good story, let down by the need to develop the scenarios further and overuse of CSO. However, the Drashings and the cast make up for much of that to make it a very watchable and enjoyable story.